canny about how such tiffany jewellery designs

No matter her lithe beauty, Chapman often exhibits the moxie of a prizefighter and seems very much up to the task of proving herself. At her design studio, four flights above the streets of New York's Meatpacking District, no task is too arduous or beneath her. Attired in a black cotton vintage Afghani dress that is slightly frayed at the neck and that tiffany jewellery well on her dancerlike frame, she wears patent-leather flats, and her long brown hair is cinched in a casual twist. Dressed to work, she scrutinizes Anastasija, a six-foot-tall blonde wearing one of her new dresses. The designer's gaze drops to the model's shoes, and immediately thereafter, Chapman herself gracefully drops to the floor, sits cross-legged and begins adding a possible flourish to tiffany jewellery black Christian Louboutin heels. Several helpers, from young assistants to grandmotherly seamstresses, hover as well, waiting for the perfectionist to sign off on another look.

The design house is named for Marchesa Luisa Casati, a Belle époque Italian socialite and fashion muse whose outrageous, exotic style finds appropriate modern incarnations in Chapman's fanciful, painstakingly crafted pieces. Despite the collection's eccentric namesake, Chapman is remarkably down-to-earth and canny about how such tiffany jewellery designs -- in addition to ready-to-wear that begins at $3,000, each collection includes special-order dresses that start at $10,000 and go well upward -- can find a place in the current market. "The dresses I design for Marchesa are what I wear in my dreams," she says. "But there is also great whimsy in the Notte Collection," she adds, referring to Marchesa's diffusion line. With their signature Marchesa-like silhouettes and such embellishments as feathers, Notte pieces retail for $700 to $1,300 and are carried in more than 200 stores worldwide.

Chapman sketches and hand drapes every dress herself, a singular role that was tiffany jewellery early last year when she and Craig changed the titles by which the two had always been described from "codesigners" to "designer and creative director" for Chapman and "cofounder" for Craig. At the time, the change was referred to as nothing more than a clarification of roles, but it has also been seen as another way that Weinstein is shaping the company from behind the scenes. Craig, however, says she simply enjoys concentrating on the lavish embellishments and fabric tiffany jewellery, adding that it is a natural extension of the print and embroidery focus she developed at London's Chelsea College of Art and Design, where she and Chapman met as teenagers in the 1990s. Whatever their titles, the two women remain best friends, and their banter and laughter set the tone for the design studio, a warren of small rooms covered with bolts of fabric, cartons of feathers and boxes of Christian Louboutin shoes. Chapman is sharing a joke with Craig and her younger brother, Edward Chapman, who serves as Marchesa's CEO, when a giant bouquet of white hydrangeas and peonies arrives. Opening the attached card, she wisecracks, looking left and then right: "Har-vey!"